WSL talking points: Arsenal star return teased, huge Liverpool opportunity in derby contest

The key talking points from this weekend’s round of WSL action.

Will Leah Williamson return?

It’s the question on every Arsenal fan’s lips.

The Gunners have been hit by more than their fair share of injuries this season, with the recent loss of Beth Mead to an ACL injury among the most crippling.

But if the universe is in the habit of giving and taking, then Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall could be about to receive a major boost - if rumours and wishful thinking are to be believed.

This week, fans have been alive to the possibility that they might see one of the side’s most treasured players, England captain Leah Williamson, return to the pitch.

Rafaelle dropped a big hint that the 25-year-old is approaching full fitness, while the Gunners’ official Twitter account posted a perhaps timely reminder that Williamson is on the cusp of 200 club appearances.

With Arsenal looking to return to winning ways after a disappointing defeat to title rivals, the return of Williamson would offer a well-needed lift.

Arsenal v Everton, Saturday 2pm - broadcast live on the FA Player

Can Liverpool return to winning ways in the Matt Beard derby?

The newly-promoted Reds’ opening day victory over the WSL holders Chelsea has proved something of a false dawn so far.

The Merseyside club followed up a headline-grabbing result with five consecutive defeats, in which they only managed to find the net once.

Hit by injuries and with all the bones of a really promising team not quite put together, you sense that once Liverpool hit fifth gear this season, their relegation-teasing start will be easily forgotten.

Beard’s side have claimed back-to-back WSL draws on the road and showed admirable fight to recover a two-goal deficit to earn a point at Brighton.

Next up, Liverpool face Beard’s old team, West Ham United - on a wave of momentum, can the Reds turn up and show the WSL what they’re capable of this season?

Liverpool v West Ham United, Sunday 2pm - broadcast live on the FA Player

Can Manchester United contain Rachel Daly?

The Reds will be bouncing after pulling off a stunning comeback victory against Arsenal on their turf to give themselves a massive leg-up in the Women’s Super League title race.

If they can do that, what can’t they achieve?

Marc Skinner’s side looked deflated when they fell to defeat against title contenders Chelsea, but they’ve not let the disappointment bridle their momentum - whether the Blues, Arsenal and Manchester City like it or not, United are on track to properly crack the WSL’s ‘big three’ this season.

Enter Rachel Daly. Scoring on average more than one goal per 90 minutes, the Aston Villa star is one of the division’s most lethal attackers and she’s on her way to Old Trafford.

With plenty of big-stage experience, the 30-year-old would no doubt relish the opportunity to spoil the Reds’ party - just like United did to Arsenal the other week.

Having only conceded five goals in the WSL this season, the Manchester side have the second-best defensive record in the division - but how well will it stand up in the face of one of the league’s most frightening goal threats?

Manchester United v Aston Villa, Saturday 12.30pm - broadcast live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League, with coverage starting at midday

Can Amy Merricks keep up her perfect start?

Under Hope Powell, the Seagulls’ start to the season stopped just short of disastrous. Brighton conceded 19 goals in five games - the eight which Tottenham Hotspur women fired past ‘keeper Megan Walsh on Halloween proving the decisive blow when it came to the fortunes of former boss Powell.

Since her assistant of five years, Amy Merricks, took up the mantle as interim manager, the skies have looked a little brighter in East Sussex.

Brighton are yet to lose a game under Merrick’s guidance, and were just moments away from claiming three wins from three before Rachel Furness bagged an injury-time equaliser for Liverpool in a moment which the Seagulls put down to ‘switching off’.

There’ll be no room for ‘switching off’ this weekend, though, as Merricks faces her toughest test as manager yet.

Their opponents, Manchester City, have won all of their last five WSL contests and, crucially, haven’t lost a game at home since Real Madrid knocked them out of the Champions League back in August.

Can Merricks’ Brighton continue the form which has taken them from 11th up to 9th place? Or will their defence be shaken by an encounter with City’s weapon, Bunny Shaw?

Manchester City v Brighton and Hove Albion, Sunday 2pm - broadcast live on the FA Player